Web-building spiders attract prey by storing decaying matter
The orb-weaving spider Nephila edulis incorporates into its web a band of decaying animal and plant matter. While earlier studies demonstrate that larger spiders utilise these debris bands as caches of food, the presence of plant matter suggests additional functions. When organic and plastic items were placed in the webs of N. edulis, some of the former but none of the latter were incorporated into the debris band. Using an Y-maze olfactometer, we show that sheep blowflies Lucilia cuprina are attracted to recently collected debris bands, but that this attraction does not persist over time. These data reveal an entirely novel foraging strategy, in which a sit-and-wait predator attracts insect prey by utilising the odours of decaying organic material. The spider’s habit of replenishing the debris band may be necessary to maintain its efficacy for attracting prey.